The Million Dollar Question = The CafePress Marketplace

Well, you'd think it was the million dollar question if you saw how many times a day someone posts something along the lines of "I just added my design, how long until it shows up in the marketplace?" or "How do I get my designs to the front of the marketplace?" or....well....you get the point.

The ever curious CafePress marketplace. It's huge, it's successful, and the question is, how do you get your designs to sell from there when you're competing with millions of other designs? You upload a design, add all the appropriate tags, make some great products, and then you wait....and wait....and wait.........and wait..........and still, nothing. So you go to the marketplace and start searching for your design. You put in one of those great tags you used for your image and yet, you still don't see your design. Page after page, you click, and look, and click, and look, and you don't see it. So you go to the CafePress forums and say, "My designs aren't showing up in the marketplace. Something is wrong, the system is broken."

Is that true? Is the marketplace broken?

No, It's not.

So we're back at square one. The million dollar question...how do you get your designs to show in the marketplace (in a good position of course) so that you can sell tons of shirts and make lots and lots of money.

The answer? You can't.

Almost every time someone posts this question on the CafePress forums, I leave the same response. I'm tired of writing it out, so I figured I'd once and for all write it out here on the BurnTees blog. Remember, this is my personal opinion. It's not fact, it's just the way I feel about the whole thing.

You mainly sell your designs from two places. Your site and the marketplace. Of those two, there's only one that you have any control over, and that's your shop. You have NO control over the marketplace. You don't decide which designs show up where, what gets featured, which shops show up on the front page...nothing. In your own shop however, you decide on the layout, you write your own descriptions, fill in your keywords and do everything else to make your shop look and work the way you want. So, why waste time worrying about the marketplace?

Here's how I look at the marketplace and I think this is how you should look at it too. The marketplace is one giant affiliate. It's a separate entity that's interested in making money by selling other people's designs and hopefully they sell some of yours for you as well. The nice part? You don't lose 15% of your commission every time they sell one of your shirts.

You wouldn't try to locate an affiliate and say, "why aren't my designs on your site?" So why question the marketplace in the same way? Instead, spend your time working on your own shop. Drive traffic to YOUR site. Why focus on the marketplace where you're competing with millions of other designs? If you drive traffic to your own site, you have a much better chance of selling one of your own products and isn't that the point?

In the end, my feeling is this. Sales from the marketplace should be viewed as a bonus, not an expected thing and not something you can work to improve. If you view it as a bonus or an affiliate sale and nothing more than that, I think that you'll be better off in the long run.

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Anonymous said...

Well said! I agree. Focus on your own shop and not something we have no control over. Everybody wants to be number one, but not all the million designs can be in marketplace, so focus on marketing your shop and tell a friend or two and maybe they will tell a friend or more. :-)

Jenn said...

The marketplace as an affiliate, I never thought of it that way, but yeah, I can see that. As someone who makes most of their sales from the marketplace and has her designs show up, I will say I'm just as confused as people on the other side. Great post and healthy attitude.

Anonymous said...

I do see the MP as an affiliate. They can show whatever designs they want to make the sale. Yes, some designs are not "so pretty", but that's subjective. Hey, I sell some ugly designs, too, which are I created when I was a newby, but they at least fit on the design. I just concentrate on making what I like in hopes that someone will like it too. I think many SKs are too caught up on the MP. Not everyone can be number 1, so make it work by doing your best and learning to market. That's all you can do. Thanks for an informative post.

Anonymous said...

You could also get a job at CP. That way, your designs would show up on newsletter promos, rotating image scripts, and especially in the nifty little folder thing the order receipt comes in. Nice perk, if you can get it.

owenandemma.com said...

I think the issue BurnTees is skirting around is "branding". With your own site you can brand yourself, you can build a name, you can build a client base ... and those are yours to keep forever and ever.

With the Marketplace you cannot distinguish yourself as easily, you can't brand yourself as easily. Still the Marketplace has tremendous value, but the value pales in comparison to what you can do on your own.

Anonymous said...

Sales you create from outside the market place fuel your designs rise to the top of the market place.

jmgnole said...

Simple, and brilliant. Thanks for the reality check.

Juna D said...

I agree too. The only sure way to get a big presence in the marketplace is to sell lots of designs. Which brings us back to how do you sell more designs? Create great designs that people will love to wear. You got to keep working at it. Keep it fresh and new. That one awesome design may last months or even a year but not forever.

NinaPA said...

Never thought about the marketplace in exactly that way... good analogy though! I'd still like to see a lot of improvements made, but I'm happy to take whatever sales I can get from the MP.